Friday, September 10, 2021

#203 - My most ridiculous bike chases yet?

I know the title is high billing, but two of the three pursuits I'll recap in this post were laughable, albeit for different reasons. With that teaser, let's start with something standard to get warmed-up.

I saw Eastern Kingbird (EAKI) by bike in San Francisco a few years back, but I've been waiting for one to appear in San Mateo. That finally happened when biologist Rusty-something found one at Crystal Springs Reservoir on the morning of September 1st. Though positive reports rolled in through midday, non-birding responsibilities prevented me from getting out until 2:30pm. I wasn't optimistic about my chances given the howling wind which had materialized across the day, but the bird showed right after I arrived. It stayed well inside the fence, so even scope views were poor. 

        Eastern Kingbird - San Mateo bike bird #289
At least the white tail band is visible...

It's nice when rarities show up so close to home....

OK, now for the fun stuff! It began when Sonia and I drove to Garin Regional Park in the East Bay for a morning of hiking on Monday, September 5th. The birding in the parched hills was expectedly-slow -- the topography was selected to exhaust our energetic foster beagle -- but we swung through Coyote Hills afterwards to look for previously-reported Baird's (BASA) and Pectoral Sandpipers (PESA), two species which I needed for Alameda County (by car or by bike). I had great looks at two of each while Sonia gave the dog some additional walking, and we returned home via the Dumbarton Bridge at 3pm.

Sonia wanted to lay low through the afternoon, so I decided to hop onto the bike and sprint straight back to Coyote Hills -- 22 miles -- with hopes of adding the same birds to my Alameda bike list. All the shorebirds had vanished since my earlier visit, but a BASA and a PESA eventually flew-in with a flock of peeps. The sun sinking to the west, I turned-tail and arrived home at 7:50pm, twenty minutes after sunset. I've double-chased birds before but not on the same day, so this represents a new level of bike-birding obsession. Not sure if that's good or bad.......

Pectoral Sandpiper (left) and Baird's Sandpiper (right)
Alameda bike birds #193 and #194

What the hell was I thinking?!?!?!

Interestingly, in pursuing the above pair, I necessarily passed on the Phainopepla which David Assman found at Fort Mason earlier on that same day. That location is a headache to reach because of all the traffic lights, and I was already limited by daylight given how late I was leaving. Plus, I wasn't keen to bike into the city via the baseball stadium when the Giants were playing the Dodgers on a holiday weekend. Phainopepla would have been a great SF bike bird (I already have it in Alameda and Santa Clara), but I didn't feel I was set-up for success given the above considerations.

It was therefore apropos that Aaron Maizlish found another Phainopepla in San Bruno (San Mateo County) on Wednesday, September 8. I was walking the dog when the report came through, so I hustled home, jumped on the bike, and quickly covered the 6.6 miles to the location. 75 minutes of searching yielded nothing but a Chris Hayward sighting, so I folded the search and headed home with hopes of a productive afternoon. And wouldn't you know it? The crafty Brit found the bird about 20 minutes after I departed! I'd already covered 5 of the return miles with the aid of a stiff tailwind, but I immediately turned around and returned to the location. Chris kindly held onto the bird -- with Malia also en route he better have! -- and it showed shortly after my re-arrival (and again after Malia arrived). So yeah, with all the back-and-forth, I rode 23 miles to see a bird which was less than 7 miles from my apartment. Ugh.

Phainopepla (immature)  - San Mateo bike bird #290

If at first you don't succeed.......

That's it for now. I'm sure there will be additional chases as fall progresses, so I'll post about those as they unfold. Cheers!

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